The Wall Street Journal has a bitingly satirical piece on the media reaction to the Cheney hunting accident. The idea that Cheney himself wouldn’t personally call Dana Milbank while Mr. Wittington lay bleeding on the field apparently sends the press into fits of apoplexy.
What happened in Texas was an accident. Cheney is an avid hunter, and the law of averages states that sooner or later an accident will occur even with the most safety-conscious hunter. Jeff Greenfield of CNN astutely finds this incident to be a political Rorschach test:
Look, I have never hunted in my life (assuming you don’t count hunting for a parking place in Manhattan). I have no more knowledge of the rules that govern a quail hunt than I do about the topography of Neptune. But the same massive level of ignorance doesn’t seem to be stopping a whole lot of people from explaining why the vice president was innocent, careless, criminally negligent, or homicidal. Similarly, it seems all but impossible to separate your judgment of the White House’s response — perfectly appropriate, sloppy, or an inexcusable attempt at cover-up — from your broader view of the president.
The media’s petulant response to the incident reflects the arrogance of the media today. Their biggest concern is that Dick Cheney didn’t notify them right away, and the first media outlet to be notified was a local paper rather than Dana Milbank. Could the Cheney camp have handled the situation better? Certainly the very last thing that they should have been considering was coordinating the media response, instead they should have been doing what they did, getting help to Wittington and working with local officials to properly investigate the accident and file the necessary reports.
For all the talk of the “political consequences” of this terrible event, the fallout will likely fall more on the media’s overreaction rather than Cheney’s momentary lapse in gun safety. The way in which the media has reacted with predictable hysteria explains why the last JFK Center survey shows the media as the most distrusted actor in American society today. With all the important and momentous events in the world, the media’s fixation on Vice President Cheney’s hunting accident indicates how far out of whack their priorities are.